Conference report: Workers Resistance 2009

Workers Resistance conference was held over Queens Birthday Weekend in Wellington. Over 65 people attended the public conference which, for the most part, was held at the Wellington City Library. Themes included both local and international workers’ struggles.

The three-day conference started off on the Friday evening with debate between Workers Party National Secretary Daphna Whitmore and Council of Trade Unions secretary Peter Conway.

Saturday’s schedule started off with Don Franks presenting on the Unite-led campaign for a $15 minimum wage. The Workers Party then launched its campaign of solidarity with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Workers Party member Paul Hopkinson presented the background to the Israel-Palestine conflict, and Mike Walker, also from the Christchurch branch, spoke of more recent developments before outlining the political and stategic position of the PFLP .

In the afternoon John Edmunson then made a presentation on the world economy and the financial crisis. He pointed to the need for a sober analysis of the state of the economy in terms of the ability of capitalism to recover from such crises. In this context, Philip Ferguson, Workers Party’s National Organiser, gave a presentation on the nature of the current National government which facilitated a broad discussion on the content of the government and the approach that needs to be taken towards it.

International speakers at the conference included Roberto Jorquera of the Revolutionary Socialist Party (Australia) and Mel Gregson of the Socialist Party Australia. Roberto addressed an audience at Wellington’s Bar Bodega where he compared the experience of the socialist movement in Chile and the counter-revolution in 1973 with the ongoing experience of social transformation under the Chavez leadership in Venezuela. Of particular interest was the following discussion around the role of the army in the revolutionary process, which was discussed in some detail. The presentation was well-received and as attended by members of the Wellington’s Latin America solidarity group.

The final day of the conference began with Mel Gregson delivering a presentation on the Australian economy . She highlighted Australia’s shrinking export market, and rising unemployment and underemployment, and pointed to the complete inadequacy of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s Keynesian talk and infrastructure-based stimulus packages. It was shown that Rudd’s return to discussion around Keynesianism has been a cynical attempt to distance the Australian Labour Party from public anger. While working people are suffering the government has announced a military spend-up, with $26.6 billion being spent in 2009-2010 alone.

Philip Ferguson and Jared Phillips led the final sessions of the public conference, with Jared speaking to the topic of how we approach common arguments against socialism and Marxism, and Philip speaking to the concept of historical specificity that was developed by German Marxist Karl Korsch.

The Workers Party’s annual internal conference elected and re-elected national positions within the party to form the national steering committee. While maintaining other party-building and broad front activities, it was formally decided to give strong emphasis over the next year to the solidarity campaign with the PFLP and to help develop the broader campaigns for workers rights, including Unite’s living wage campaign.

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